Rocco Grimaldi said he isn’t expecting to be handed a roster spot with the Panthers.
On Tuesday, however, another one might have just opened up.
The Panthers placed veteran winger Brad Boyes on waivers with the expectation of buying out the final year of his contract on Wednesday.
Boyes signed a two-year contract extension with the Panthers in 2013 — just hours before the team reacquired goalie Roberto Luongo in a blockbuster move that completely overshadowed Boyes’ deal.
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With free agents Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall out, the Panthers have more than a few spots open for young players such as Grimaldi.
That, of course, could change Wednesday when the free agency period opens up.
Grimaldi, who had a goal in seven games with the Panthers last year, said he is ready to make that jump.
“I’m going with the same mind-set as last year if not a little more motivated because I didn’t stick with the team,” said Grimaldi, who at 22 is one of the veterans of Florida’s development camp that continues Wednesday morning.
“I know there is a spot there and I want to take it. I’m going to work very hard this summer.”
Grimaldi is not the only player fighting for a spot on the team come training camp.
With so many veteran players on last year’s team, Grimaldi and Quinton Howden spent a lot of time in the minors. Lawson Crouse, Florida’s pick with the 11th overall selection Friday, is also fighting for a spot.
Looking back, Grimaldi said, playing in the AHL was a bit of a blessing. Grimaldi spent three years at North Dakota before signing with the Panthers and spending most of last season in San Antonio.
“Having that first pro year under my belt is huge,” Grimaldi said. “Seeing how hard it is — I’ve heard the [AHL] is the hardest league to play in because of the grind — was huge for me.”
Said general manager Dale Tallon: “They all think we [assign them to the minors] because we don’t like them. We don’t send them to the minors for bad reasons. When they grow up, they’re more mature, they figure it out. A lot of great players have played in the AHL. It’s a great learning experience.”
As far as free agency goes, the Panthers weren’t expected to be very active, although Tuesday’s move of letting Boyes go suggests Tallon has something cooking.
This isn’t a strong free agent class, so Tallon could have a trade in the works or a deal pending.
Carolina is buying out former 20-goal scorer Alexander Semin — whom the Hurricanes will pay $14 million over the next six years — and he could be tempting.
Florida is definitely looking for a third goalie to perhaps battle Al Montoya as Luongo’s backup but more likely help out in AHL Portland (Maine).
The Panthers, who were 25th in the league in scoring last year, also need someone who can score. Semin has shown he can do that. Other potential free agents Florida could have interest in include former Panthers winger Michael Frolik and Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey.
Boyes, who will be owed $1.7 million spread over the next two seasons, scored 35 goals in 156 games with the Panthers.
The Panthers’ prospects came off the ice Tuesday with a trip to the beach as well as holding a street hockey clinic.
The team returns to the Coral Springs IceDen at 10 a.m. Wednesday for its second of three workouts before the camp is concluded Thursday.
The Panthers will attend Wednesday’s Marlins-Giants game, and will see Crouse throw out the first pitch.